My Days in the Underworld – Agni Sreedhar – Book Review


Title: My Days In The Underworld

Author: Agni Sreedhar

Book Blurb: Agni Sreedhar is an underworld don turned writer turned journalist turned filmmaker.

He studied law in Bangalore and was intent on entering the Indian Civil Service when circumstances forced him to turn to crime. Starting from the early 1980s, Sreedhar found himself entrenched in the bitter gang wars that shaped the contours of modern Bangalore. This book is an intimate, first-person account of the two decades he spent in the world of crime. But My Days in the Underworld isn’t just a tale of murder and blood. It is a study of a system that runs parallel to the world ordinary people inhabit; a lateral universe, one with its own police force and laws, one where the criminal justice system has all but failed.

This is a story of a city as seen through the personal histories of politicians who ruled Karnataka, men like Gundu Rao, Ramakrishna Hegde, Bangarappa and Deve Gowda, as well as those who were responsible for shaping Bangalore’s underworld: Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan, Sharad Shetty, Kotwal Ramchandra, Jayaraj and Muthappa Rai.


I read this book on the rave reviews and recommendations from a couple of friends, one of whom I borrowed the book from and another who had seen a movie based on a few incidents from this book. And to be very honest, I found it a tad disappointing.

The book itself reads more like a memoir into how the author gradually makes inroads into the Bangalore underworld without really knowing what he was getting into and gradually metamorphosing into one of the city’s most influential underworld figures of the 1980s and 1990s. Starting off with Sreedhar’s brushes with Kotwal Ramachandra and Jayaraj, the story goes into great detail about his friendship with the latter and how Jayaraj proves to be his mentor in the underworld and someone who teaches him quite a few tricks of the trade. In fact it is as Jayaraj’s protégé that Sreedhar makes a name for himself in Bangalore.

The story then moves on to Muthappa Rai’s entry into Bangalore and how Sreedhar gradually gets pulled into his gang and his activities, and his ultimate fall out with the don from Mangalore due ideological differences. While Sreedhar favored more unity among all the warring gangs of Bangalore, Muthappa Rai didn’t seem to care as long as he was not targeted by any of them.

The last few chapters of the book deals with how Sreedhar finally gets in touch with Ravi Belagere, the reporter and journalist, and how he ultimately gets around to starting a weekly of his own, Agni.

While there is nothing new in terms of content and Sreedhar’s story is pretty much in line with what gangster movies like Satya have already told us, what struck me as a little unusual was the fact that Sreedhar seems to have become a big name in the Bangalore underworld without necessarily being one of the most cut-throat or ruthless among his peers, or at least, that’s the impression I was left with after reading the book. He also makes an attempt to uncover a little bit of the police-politician-underworld nexus in this book by naming politicians, policemen and how they dealt with members from the underworld. He was especially scathing on a couple of policemen who apparently had made it a mission to make his life miserable in the 80s and 90s.

Would I recommend this book for a casual read? No. Read it if and only if you are really interested in knowing about the Bangalore underworld of the 80s and 90s. Sadly, this book doesn’t really provide too much insight into a gangster’s psyche and his methods of operation, etc which is why I read this book in the first place.

Related information

Name My days in the underworld : The rise of the Bangalore mafia
Author/s Agni Sreedhar
Publisher Tranquebar Press
Year published 2013
ISBN 13 9789383260348
Goodreads link Link
Flipkart link Link
Amazon link Link


Verses for Introspection: 7

न चक्षुषा पश्यतॆ नापि वाचा

नान्यैर्दॆवैस्तपसा कर्मणा वा।


स्ततस्तु तं पश्यतॆ निष्कलं ध्यायमानः।।

Na chakshushaa pashyathe naapi vaachaa

Naanyairdevaistapasaa karmanaa vaa


Statasthu tam pashyathe nishkalam dhyaayamaanaha

Mundakopanishad – 3.1.8


The self cannot be perceived by the eyes and the senses, described by words, nor revealed by penances and rituals. When the understanding becomes calm and refined, one’s whole being is purified and then engaged in meditation, one realizes Him, the Absolute.

Inspired by Swami Bhoomananda TirthaJi’s talks and satsangs. 


Image courtesy :
Image courtesy :

As if the bitter cold of wintry Bangalore mornings was not enough, Sanju’s hands were bound so tight that his fingers had gone numb and he couldn’t manipulate them.

Although his kidnappers had taken precautions in terms of not letting him know anything about his surroundings, they had not anticipated one important thing.

When he was released Sanju confidently told the policemen that they should start their search in the old libraries of Bangalore. As a teenager he had spent so much time in these places that the smell of old books was something he was extremely familiar with.


This post has been written for the following prompts

The Write Tribe Wednesday Prompt where the post had to be about the smell of old books

The Three Word Wednesday Prompt where the post had to include the words bitter, manipulate and tight

On duty, all these years

Mekhri Circle, Bangalore, in 1995 was not a pleasant road to be driving a car or riding a two wheeler on. Given the post-liberalization boom, the availability of foreign brands in India and the slowly increasing levels of affluence in Bangalore, courtesy the new sunrise sector of Information Technology, meant that more and more vehicles were finding their way on the roads of the Garden City, but infrastructure development projects were not keeping pace with this growth. And nowhere was this more evident than the Mekhri Circle traffic signal.

masked girlStaying in one of the new localities of the city, Sanjaynagar in Bangalore North meant that Sita had to pass this signal at least twice a day, on the way to office and on the way back home. And the fact that she worked in a nationalized bank meant that she had to travel during the peak hours in the morning and the evening as well. While her trusty Kinetic Honda allowed her to zig zag her way through the traffic, the fact that there were so many more smarter riders and the additional fact that all of them seemed to be in a perennial hurry meant that Sita had to spent quite a few minutes at this particular traffic signal every day of the week.

forearm-tattoo-4On most days, during the third consecutive red light at this signal, she would notice the traffic policeman briskly going about his duties and regulating the frequent offenders who jumped the red light. What interested her the most about this particular cop were two things: the first was the fact that he was young and quite trim when it came to physique which is not something that the usual traffic cop looks like. In fact, he looked quite out of place in the traffic department without his potbelly and the nose mask which covered most of his face. And the second thing that she noticed him was his unusual tattoo of five stars that he had on his forearm.

The years went by, the traffic situation at Mekhri Circle only got worse with each passing month. And finally, the Bangalore civic authorities had to construct an underpass which would ease the traffic congestion situation, but by the time they actually planned and finished the underpass, the volumes of traffic had reached levels unmanageable by the underpass as well.

In the meantime, Sita grew old enough to retire from her job at the bank and settled down quite well in the Sanjaynagar area. And it had been around 12 odd years since she had actually ridden her two-wheeler through the Mekhri Circle traffic underpass.

Life in Sanjaynagar has settled down into a decent routine for her. She would get up in the mornings, go for her morning walk with her husband and a few other common friends of theirs, come back home, freshen up, have her breakfast and then go to a few spiritual classes (Bhagvad Gita, meditation, etc), and in general she kept herself quite busy. With this packed itinerary and her voracious love for books, she managed to keep herself engaged for most part of the day, and she was enjoying her retired life quite a bit.

guardBoth she and her husband always took their morning walk in the Dollar’s Colony Walking Track as it provided them with the opportunity to catch up with common friends almost everyday and it also provided them with a secure environment as the track itself was fenced with a polite Security Guard at the gates. In fact this guard was so polite that he smartly saluted her every morning and evening without fail.

On one of the days when Sita was enjoying her brisk morning walk, there was a commotion near the entrance of the Walking Track. When she reached near the place, she realized that a biker who had tried to snatch the chain of yet another morning walker had been apprehended by the Security Guard. She stood around and watched while the policemen arrived and took the chain snatcher away.

Impressed with the guard, she waited until the cops left and then congratulated him. He just smiled and smartly saluted her. Given that she was actually seeing him today, she noticed something familiar on his forearm, an unusual tattoo of five stars.

She had seen that tattoo before. If only, she could remember where.

Sitting down on the benches in the walking track, she furiously searched through her database of memories and then it all came back flooding to her. The Security Guard was the same smart traffic cop from all those years back. She went to him and confirmed this information with him. When he replied in the affirmative, it was then she realized why she hadn’t realized this before.

Back in the days when Ramu was a traffic cop, he had always covered most of his face with a nose mask to keep safe from the pollution. And now that he was a Security Guard, he always wore a full sleeved shirt. In the scuffle with the chain snatcher earlier today, his sleeve button had come undone which was why she noticed the unusual tattoo on his forearm when he saluted her.

It was then she realized that until people like Ramu still existed in this world, people who would turn up to work everyday and put in their best efforts despite rough weather conditions and bad traffic, the world would remain just that little bit safer.


This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. This weekend’s prompt had to include the line She had seen that tattoo before. If only, she could remember where which is the reason it has specifically been highlighted in the post.


This post is one of Blogadda’s WoW picks for the weekend of Nov 17, 2013.